An Indicator Framework for Assessing Ecosystem Services in Support of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. Maes, J., Liquete, C., Teller, A., Erhard, M., Paracchini, M. L., Barredo, J. I., Grizzetti, B., Cardoso, A., Somma, F., Petersen, J., Meiner, A., Gelabert, E. R., Zal, N., Kristensen, P., Bastrup-Birk, A., Biala, K., Piroddi, C., Egoh, B., Degeorges, P., Fiorina, C., Santos-Mart́\in, Fernando, Naru ̌sevi ̌cius, V., Verboven, J., Pereira, H. M., Bengtsson, J., Gocheva, K., Marta-Pedroso, C., Snäll, T., Estreguil, C., San-Miguel-Ayanz, J., Pérez-Soba, M., Gr\^et-Regamey, A., Lilleb\o, A. I., Malak, D. A., Condé, S., Moen, J., Czúcz, B., Drakou, E. G., Zulian, G., & Lavalle, C. Ecosystem Services, 17:14–23, February, 2016.
doi  abstract   bibtex   
[Highlights] [::] EU Member states have to map and assess ecosystems and their services (MAES). [::] We present the MAES conceptual model which links biodiversity to human wellbeing. [::] Typologies of ecosystems and their services ensure comparability across countries. [::] We present a list of indicators that can be used for national MAES assessments. [::] We critically discuss the data gaps and challenges of the MAES typologies. [Abstract] In the EU, the mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their services, abbreviated to MAES, is seen as a key action for the advancement of biodiversity objectives, and also to inform the development and implementation of related policies on water, climate, agriculture, forest, marine and regional planning. In this study, we present the development of an analytical framework which ensures that consistent approaches are used throughout the EU. It is framed by a broad set of key policy questions and structured around a conceptual framework that links human societies and their well-being with the environment. Next, this framework is tested through four thematic pilot studies, including stakeholders and experts working at different scales and governance levels, which contributed indicators to assess the state of ecosystem services. Indicators were scored according to different criteria and assorted per ecosystem type and ecosystem services using the common international classification of ecosystem services (CICES) as typology. We concluded that there is potential to develop a first EU wide ecosystem assessment on the basis of existing data if they are combined in a creative way. However, substantial data gaps remain to be filled before a fully integrated and complete ecosystem assessment can be carried out. [Excerpt: Results] After a first round of consultation with all contributing actors a total of 1118 potential ecosystem service indicators was collected across all ecosystem services types and all ecosystem types considered in this study. This total also included double counts as often similar indicators were used for different ecosystem types or the same indicators were reported by different contributions. Next these indicators were charted, scored according to their data availability and reviewed in the expert workshop. After the review process and excluding doubles, 327 ecosystem services indicators were retained and given a quality label. Of this selection of 327, 64 indicators received the highest quality or green label, 124 received the yellow label, 103 were labelled red, and 36 had a grey label for which the expert panel did not assign a quality label [...] [\n] For forest services, 115 indicators were finally selected, showing the significant amount of information that is available for forests but also demonstrating the importance of forests in delivering many services. The agro-ecosystems pilots retained 69 indicators in the final selection. The freshwater pilot retained 109 indicators but contrasting with forests many indicators are shared among 4 ecosystem types and are thus not unique as in the forest pilot study. The marine pilot delivered 33 indicators for four ecosystem types, demonstrating that data to measure the state of marine ecosystem services is less available than for terrestrial and freshwater systems. [\n] One fifth of the indicators for ecosystem services received the highest quality label [...], corresponding to indicators that are widely available and supposedly ready to use for reporting under Action 5 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy. Importantly, many indicators characterized with a yellow or red quality label are available for usage but require additional expertise or interpretation before they can be used for mapping and assessment of ecosystem services. [\n] [...] [Methodological challenges] The indicator framework proposed in this study as well as the testing phase using ecosystem based pilots is based on collaboration among researchers, civil servants at EU and national levels, and other stakeholders. Such a joint exercise warrants that the scientific knowledge based on ecosystems is made applicable and useful to support policy and decision making and implementation (e.g. for monitoring progress to biodiversity targets) while also taking into consideration the issue of feasibility. But it also leads to a number of additional challenges which need some critical reflection. [::] A first drawback is that the indicators proposed in this study do not always quantify the potential or actual contributions of ecosystems for regulation and maintenance, but may measure a pressure on ecosystems (e.g. share of agroforestry within floodplains), an ecosystem state (e.g. ecological status of water bodies) or an impact on ecosystems (e.g. sediments removed from dams, presence of alien species). Such indicators are thus used as surrogates of ecosystem services. This is common practise (Egoh et al., 2012 and Layke et al., 2012) and, to our view, acceptable insofar the conceptual framework used in this study involves the assumption that good environmental conditions indicate a healthier and more resilient ecosystem that provides more services and maintains the capacity to provide them for the future (Balvanera et al., 2006, Chapin et al., 2000 and Schindler et al., 2010). However, the relationship between ecosystem condition and services has not been explicitly explored in this process and needs further scientific attention (Palmer and Febria, 2012). [::] A second shortcoming is that data availability is not the best criterion for identifying ecosystem services indicators as it may direct the search of indicators towards existing national or EU wide monitoring programmes. [...] [::] The third and fourth steps of the methodology pursued the synthesis and classification of the available indicators. However, despite of the adoption of two typologies and a common assessment framework for selecting ecosystem service indicators, we could not exclude different interpretations of data quality among the different pilot studies. Each thematic pilot inevitably involved a separate disciplinary approach to ecosystem assessment which could not be entirely streamlined during the course of this study. Hence the synthesis and labelling of indicators could benefit from further homogenisation. [...] [Gaps] Several knowledge gaps became apparent during our study. [::] The first one is the development and subsequent monitoring of indicators for cultural ecosystem services (Daniel et al., 2012 and Paracchini et al., 2014). All thematic pilot studies reported mainly low and medium quality labelled indicators. Visitor statistics returned as single most important indicator to assess the role of different ecosystem types as sources for several classes of cultural ecosystem services. [...] [::] A second gap relates to the link between some dimensions of biodiversity, such as species diversity, and the delivery of ecosystem services, which requires further research and evidence gathering [...]. [::] A third weakness observed is the low number of indicators proposed for the analysis of the demand and the valuation of ecosystem services. There are also controversial issues ignored such as how stakeholders' values influence the assessment of ecosystem services. Some of these aspects will be addressed in the forthcoming ecosystem accounting exercise of the Biodiversity Strategy. [\n] [...] [Conclusion] This paper demonstrates that there is potential to develop a first ecosystem assessment on the basis of existing data if they are combined in a creative way. However, substantial data gaps remain to be filled before a fully integrated and complete ecosystem assessment can be carried out. We presented an extensive list of potential indicators, which can be used, together with a typology, to perform a first mapping of ecosystem condition and ecosystem services. Several EU policies including agriculture, water, marine, forest and nature policies, already compile data and indicators for ecosystem assessments, even if they were originally not designed to do so. Usage of these sector-specific data would thus facilitate the mainstreaming of biodiversity and ecosystem services, which is embedded in EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy.
@article{maesIndicatorFrameworkAssessing2016,
  title = {An Indicator Framework for Assessing Ecosystem Services in Support of the {{EU Biodiversity Strategy}} to 2020},
  author = {Maes, Joachim and Liquete, Camino and Teller, Anne and Erhard, Markus and Paracchini, Maria L. and Barredo, Jos{\'e} I. and Grizzetti, Bruna and Cardoso, Ana and Somma, Francesca and Petersen, Jan-Erik and Meiner, Andrus and Gelabert, Eva R. and Zal, Nihat and Kristensen, Peter and {Bastrup-Birk}, Annemarie and Biala, Katarzyna and Piroddi, Chiara and Egoh, Benis and Degeorges, Patrick and Fiorina, Christel and {Santos-Mar{\'t}{\i}n}, Fernando and Naru{\v s}evi{\v c}ius, Vytautas and Verboven, Jan and Pereira, Henrique M. and Bengtsson, Jan and Gocheva, Kremena and {Marta-Pedroso}, Cristina and Sn{\"a}ll, Tord and Estreguil, Christine and {San-Miguel-Ayanz}, Jesus and {P{\'e}rez-Soba}, Marta and {Gr{\^e}t-Regamey}, Adrienne and Lilleb{\o}, Ana I. and Malak, Dania A. and Cond{\'e}, Sophie and Moen, Jon and Cz{\'u}cz, B{\'a}lint and Drakou, Evangelia G. and Zulian, Grazia and Lavalle, Carlo},
  year = {2016},
  month = feb,
  volume = {17},
  pages = {14--23},
  issn = {2212-0416},
  doi = {10.1016/j.ecoser.2015.10.023},
  abstract = {[Highlights]

[::] EU Member states have to map and assess ecosystems and their services (MAES). [::] We present the MAES conceptual model which links biodiversity to human wellbeing. [::] Typologies of ecosystems and their services ensure comparability across countries. [::] We present a list of indicators that can be used for national MAES assessments. [::] We critically discuss the data gaps and challenges of the MAES typologies.

[Abstract]

In the EU, the mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their services, abbreviated to MAES, is seen as a key action for the advancement of biodiversity objectives, and also to inform the development and implementation of related policies on water, climate, agriculture, forest, marine and regional planning. In this study, we present the development of an analytical framework which ensures that consistent approaches are used throughout the EU. It is framed by a broad set of key policy questions and structured around a conceptual framework that links human societies and their well-being with the environment. Next, this framework is tested through four thematic pilot studies, including stakeholders and experts working at different scales and governance levels, which contributed indicators to assess the state of ecosystem services. Indicators were scored according to different criteria and assorted per ecosystem type and ecosystem services using the common international classification of ecosystem services (CICES) as typology. We concluded that there is potential to develop a first EU wide ecosystem assessment on the basis of existing data if they are combined in a creative way. However, substantial data gaps remain to be filled before a fully integrated and complete ecosystem assessment can be carried out.

[Excerpt: Results]

After a first round of consultation with all contributing actors a total of 1118 potential ecosystem service indicators was collected across all ecosystem services types and all ecosystem types considered in this study. This total also included double counts as often similar indicators were used for different ecosystem types or the same indicators were reported by different contributions. Next these indicators were charted, scored according to their data availability and reviewed in the expert workshop. After the review process and excluding doubles, 327 ecosystem services indicators were retained and given a quality label. Of this selection of 327, 64 indicators received the highest quality or green label, 124 received the yellow label, 103 were labelled red, and 36 had a grey label for which the expert panel did not assign a quality label [...]

[\textbackslash n] For forest services, 115 indicators were finally selected, showing the significant amount of information that is available for forests but also demonstrating the importance of forests in delivering many services. The agro-ecosystems pilots retained 69 indicators in the final selection. The freshwater pilot retained 109 indicators but contrasting with forests many indicators are shared among 4 ecosystem types and are thus not unique as in the forest pilot study. The marine pilot delivered 33 indicators for four ecosystem types, demonstrating that data to measure the state of marine ecosystem services is less available than for terrestrial and freshwater systems.

[\textbackslash n] One fifth of the indicators for ecosystem services received the highest quality label [...], corresponding to indicators that are widely available and supposedly ready to use for reporting under Action 5 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy. Importantly, many indicators characterized with a yellow or red quality label are available for usage but require additional expertise or interpretation before they can be used for mapping and assessment of ecosystem services.

[\textbackslash n] [...]

[Methodological challenges] The indicator framework proposed in this study as well as the testing phase using ecosystem based pilots is based on collaboration among researchers, civil servants at EU and national levels, and other stakeholders. Such a joint exercise warrants that the scientific knowledge based on ecosystems is made applicable and useful to support policy and decision making and implementation (e.g. for monitoring progress to biodiversity targets) while also taking into consideration the issue of feasibility. But it also leads to a number of additional challenges which need some critical reflection.

[::] A first drawback is that the indicators proposed in this study do not always quantify the potential or actual contributions of ecosystems for regulation and maintenance, but may measure a pressure on ecosystems (e.g. share of agroforestry within floodplains), an ecosystem state (e.g. ecological status of water bodies) or an impact on ecosystems (e.g. sediments removed from dams, presence of alien species). Such indicators are thus used as surrogates of ecosystem services. This is common practise (Egoh et al., 2012 and Layke et al., 2012) and, to our view, acceptable insofar the conceptual framework used in this study involves the assumption that good environmental conditions indicate a healthier and more resilient ecosystem that provides more services and maintains the capacity to provide them for the future (Balvanera et al., 2006, Chapin et al., 2000 and Schindler et al., 2010). However, the relationship between ecosystem condition and services has not been explicitly explored in this process and needs further scientific attention (Palmer and Febria, 2012).

[::] A second shortcoming is that data availability is not the best criterion for identifying ecosystem services indicators as it may direct the search of indicators towards existing national or EU wide monitoring programmes. [...]

[::] The third and fourth steps of the methodology pursued the synthesis and classification of the available indicators. However, despite of the adoption of two typologies and a common assessment framework for selecting ecosystem service indicators, we could not exclude different interpretations of data quality among the different pilot studies. Each thematic pilot inevitably involved a separate disciplinary approach to ecosystem assessment which could not be entirely streamlined during the course of this study. Hence the synthesis and labelling of indicators could benefit from further homogenisation. [...]

[Gaps]

Several knowledge gaps became apparent during our study. 

[::] The first one is the development and subsequent monitoring of indicators for cultural ecosystem services (Daniel et al., 2012 and Paracchini et al., 2014). All thematic pilot studies reported mainly low and medium quality labelled indicators. Visitor statistics returned as single most important indicator to assess the role of different ecosystem types as sources for several classes of cultural ecosystem services. [...]

[::] A second gap relates to the link between some dimensions of biodiversity, such as species diversity, and the delivery of ecosystem services, which requires further research and evidence gathering [...].

[::] A third weakness observed is the low number of indicators proposed for the analysis of the demand and the valuation of ecosystem services. There are also controversial issues ignored such as how stakeholders' values influence the assessment of ecosystem services. Some of these aspects will be addressed in the forthcoming ecosystem accounting exercise of the Biodiversity Strategy.

[\textbackslash n] [...]

[Conclusion]

This paper demonstrates that there is potential to develop a first ecosystem assessment on the basis of existing data if they are combined in a creative way. However, substantial data gaps remain to be filled before a fully integrated and complete ecosystem assessment can be carried out. We presented an extensive list of potential indicators, which can be used, together with a typology, to perform a first mapping of ecosystem condition and ecosystem services. Several EU policies including agriculture, water, marine, forest and nature policies, already compile data and indicators for ecosystem assessments, even if they were originally not designed to do so. Usage of these sector-specific data would thus facilitate the mainstreaming of biodiversity and ecosystem services, which is embedded in EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy.},
  journal = {Ecosystem Services},
  keywords = {*imported-from-citeulike-INRMM,~INRMM-MiD:c-13907920,~to-add-doi-URL,biodiversity,classification,data-integration,data-uncertainty,ecosystem-services,european-union,featured-publication,integrated-natural-resources-modelling-and-management,integration-techniques,knowledge-integration,modelling,modelling-uncertainty,uncertainty},
  lccn = {INRMM-MiD:c-13907920}
}
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